Biden Commutes Sentences of 31 Individuals With Nonviolent Drug Offenses

Biden Commutes Sentences of 31 Individuals With Nonviolent Drug Offenses
President Joe Biden speaks at the Take Your Child to Work Day event at the White House in Washington on April 27, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Caden Pearson

The White House announced on Friday that President Joe Biden will grant clemency to 31 individuals who were convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

The offenses committed by these individuals include possession and distribution of methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine, as well as conspiracy to distribute these drugs and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
The White House said the move is part of the Biden administration’s plan to help incarcerated individuals successfully reintegrate into society, which includes reducing barriers to voting and more.
“These individuals, who have been successfully serving sentences on home confinement, have demonstrated a commitment to rehabilitation, including by securing employment and advancing their education,” the White House said.

While commutations don’t eliminate convictions, the White House said that many of the recipients would have received lower sentences if they were convicted today due to criminal justice reforms, including the First Step Act. This act was passed by Congress and signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018.

The clemency recipients will be under home confinement until the commutations go into effect on June 30, after which they will be on supervised release.

According to Susan Rice, Biden’s chief domestic policy adviser who will step down in May, the clemencies disclosed on Friday are part of a larger initiative focused on prisoner reentry and rehabilitation.

Rice told reporters that sentences should “reflect the seriousness of the crime” and provide a chance at “meaningful rehabilitation” and reentry to society.

“Leaders on both sides of the aisle have recognized that these steps are not just the right thing to do,” she said. “They’re the smart thing to do to make our communities safer and stronger, to empower people, communities, our economy, and our nation as a whole.”

Rehabilitation Plan

The clemency is part of the Biden administration’s broader plan to improve rehabilitation in jails and prisons, support successful reentry, and strengthen public safety by releasing an “Alternatives, Rehabilitation, and Reentry Strategic Plan.”

The plan includes more than 100 policy actions to improve the criminal justice system, such as expanding access to health care, secure housing, educational opportunities, and job opportunities while also reducing barriers to voting.

The White House claimed that most people in jail are eligible to vote and noted the Department of Justice released a guide in May 2022 about state voting rules that apply after criminal convictions that “will provide guidance on state-specific voter rights for incarcerated persons and promote strategies to reduce barriers for eligible voters.”

The broader plan also includes provisions to expand access to health care, including mental health and addiction treatment, for individuals involved in the criminal justice system. It also includes measures to increase funding for affordable housing programs and to provide support for individuals returning to their communities after incarceration to help prevent recidivism.

Expanding access to educational opportunities is also part of the plan, including college education for incarcerated individuals and increasing funding for job training and workforce development programs. By providing individuals with the education and skills they need to secure good-paying jobs, the plan aims to reduce the likelihood of involvement in criminal activity, according to the White House.

Last year, Biden said he would pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession and called on governors to do the same with state offenses.

“There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden,” Biden said in a statement on Oct. 6, 2022.

The Biden administration said at the time there were over 6,500 people with federal convictions from 1992 to 2021 and thousands of others with convictions under D.C. law.

A growing number of states have decriminalized marijuana possession and other marijuana-related offenses in recent years, and federal officials rarely bring federal charges against people who are violating federal law.

Caden Pearson is a reporter covering U.S. and world news.
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